A former Columbia high school student who recorded a 2015 video which showed a school resource officer forcibly dragging another student out of her desk and across the floor is now suing the authorities involved.
Niya Kenny filed the lawsuit against the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and Richland School District 2 nearly a year after prosecutors announced they would not pursue charges against her, the since-fired deputy or the student actually seen in the video.
“It was one of the most traumatizing things that I had ever experienced in my 15 years of being in District 2,” she said in a press conference Wednesday announcing the lawsuit. “I just couldn’t believe that they allowed me to be transported to jail and handcuffed all day.”
Kenny’s video is separate from the now-infamous October 2015 Instagram post which showed Fields accost the second student (SC Radio Network is not identifying her because she was a minor at the time) after the student refused to got to detention for using her cell phone in class. After she did not respond to Fields’ repeated requests, the deputy forcibly pulled her out of her desk — toppling it over — and dragged her across the floor. Kenny — who filmed on her phone — was arrested after she confronted Fields.
“I was very, very disturbed with my daughter being arrested for standing up for what she believed was an injustice towards another student,” Kenny’s mother Doris Ballard said.
Attorney Bakari Sellers said Kenny had to withdraw from school and get a GED rather than a diploma. Sellers said the lawsuit seeks to force changes in how the school district handles students who act up in class, so that administrators do not rely on police officers for classroom disruption cases.
Kenny is already involved in an earlier lawsuit the ACLU filed against the state of South Carolina over the “disturbing schools” law that Fields used in the arrests. The lawsuit claims hundreds of students, some as young as 7 years old, are being arrested and charged under the law for behavior such as loitering, cursing, or undefined “obnoxious” actions on school grounds. The group said the students arrested tend to be disproportionately minorities.